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www.amityfoundation.org

 

Celebrating Amity's 20th Anniversary 
Part 1: Kunming and Wa Villages

Amity Foundation (www.amityfoundation.org) was founded in 1985 by Chinese Christian leaders who foresaw a need to be able to cooperate with other Christians around the world for the benefit of the Chinese people. These three goals identify threads of support that make up the tapestry that is Amity:

  • *Amity contributes to China's social development and openness to the outside world.

  1. *Amity makes Christian involvement and participation in meeting the needs of society more widely known to the Chinese people.

  2. *Amity serves as a channel for people-to-people contact and the ecumenical sharing of resources.

November 1-9, 2005 was set as the time for celebration. The format was to conduct four tours of Amity projects in remote areas of China, from November 1-6, with a two-day conference to follow in Nanjing. The four provinces visited were: Ningxia, Sichuan, Guizhou, and Yunnan. I participated in the Yunnan tour, along with representatives of Virginia WMU, Ann and Kent Brown.

On November 1, the 25 participants in the Yunnan tour gathered in Kunming, capital of the province. That evening, we visited the Holy Trinity Protestant Church, a large, impressive structure, newly built, which serves as a center for worship, training, and translation.

We met several persons who were working on a Bible translation for the Lisu, one of many minority groups in Yunnan. The China Christian Council already publishes seven Bibles in minority languages, but many more are needed. The pastor explained their procedure for translation, a tedious and careful process.

November 2, we all flew to Lin Cang and boarded a small bus that would be our conveyance for the next two days. We drove to Cang Yuan, on the border with Myanmar, home of the Wa minority people. We were hosted at a welcoming dinner that evening, which included dancing and singing, characteristic elements of the Wa hospitality. November 3, we went to a village to see and hear about Amity's work there through their Rural Development Division.

When we arrived at the first village, the valley formed by two green-covered mountains cradled a huge fog, which was typical of mornings in the mountains; it cleared off by the time we left. The work we saw in this village included a clinic, which was operated by a young woman who had received training through an Amity project, a school building that had been built with Amity funds, a community water tap which brought water from a mountain spring, along with a concrete canal that channeled water to the fields for irrigation, and talked with a woman who had participated in the microfinance portion of the project. Microfinance is a program which originated in Bangladesh on the theory that making small loans to women is a way to overcome poverty. Amity believes that side benefits, such as self-esteem, training, and management skills, are as important as the money the women make.

Learning about projects.JPG (365997 bytes)        Village health worker.JPG (445252 bytes)

Washing hair.JPG (381869 bytes)        House for people and pigs.JPG (405093 bytes)

A good pipe.JPG (418998 bytes)         Warm sendoff.JPG (421274 bytes)

We reluctantly said goodbye to our new friends and went to a second village where we ate a picnic lunch provided by the Wa hosts. The location was spectacular, nestled in shade between two mountains, with another mountain at the end of the valley, with a stream running through it. Tables were made by turning bamboo baskets over and covering them with large banana tree leaves. The food was just put on the leaves, without bowls, though we were given bowls and chopsticks. Is this beautiful, or what?

PICT0130.JPG (380998 bytes)         Tasty.JPG (370639 bytes)

In the afternoon, we visited a third Wa village. Again, we were welcomed by villagers, dressed in colorful, handmade native costumes, lining the road, singing and clapping. They led us into a courtyard that included a basketball court, where we sat in rows of chairs watching the local people give us demonstrations of their local dances. Since the sun at that altitude is quite hot, though the air is dry, several women stood among us with umbrellas, shielding us from the sun. We tried to hold the umbrellas ourselves, but they insisted on holding them. Notice the 'V' shape at the peak of the facade on the building, below right. All Wa buildings have this design element; it represents bull horns, because the bull plays a large role in their religious practice. After the dancing, we went into a meeting room to learn about Amity's projects, which were similar to those in the first village.

Welcoming parade.JPG (428659 bytes)         2nd Wa village.JPG (380696 bytes)
Dancing 1.JPG (352090 bytes)         Dancing 2.JPG (449247 bytes)

That evening, we saw even more Wa dancing, this time in a community auditorium with professional performers. A special part of the occasion was the dedication of a new drum, also a special symbol of the Wa nationality, which was to be sent to Amity in appreciation for their help in relieving poverty among the Wa villages. The auditorium was comfortably full of community people who admitted they had not come to see the dances, because they were very familiar with them, but the foreigners were novelties worth coming to see. The dances were incredibly colorful and vibrant, the music punctuated by the drum. Toward the end of the program, they called all the men from the visiting Amity group and asked them to sit on stools in front of Wa women dancers who combed their hair with a comb made from bull horns. This was introduced as a custom of Wa maidens who want to let a young man know of their interest. Then, they gave each of us a tapestry bag containing one of those combs.

Special goodbye.JPG (463861 bytes)         Singing goodbye.JPG (459824 bytes)

The next morning, as we ate breakfast, the dancers waited outside for us, lined up on either side of the sidewalk to clap and sing and beat the drum as a goodbye gesture. Then, we headed off to Lin Cang where we would begin the second phase of our tour.